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Digging deeper than surface level into any brand will likely reveal a common platform or series name encompassing a handful of models. Codes like BMW’s E30 and G20, Audi’s C5 and B8, and Volvo’s P1, P2, and P3 are all some you might regularly encounter while car shopping. These overarching model ranges can make it easy to determine which parts can crossover between models and even help you pinpoint the model year range a particular model might be. However, the nomenclature manufacturers’ use isn’t always alphabetical or numerical in order, making learning a bit of a challenge.

Early in larger-scale production, Volvo began to group its offerings under a specific platform with shared parts. Doing so kept engineering and parts costs down while maximizing the number of cars sold and gross profit. Each platform or series breaks up the different eras of Volvo cars. Within that are the individual models and their respective model codes. Once you know the platforms and codes or use this guide as a reference, you’ll be able to better understand the models you’re researching and which fits you best.

 

P80 Platform

The P80 platform represents the turning point that began the lineage of Volvos we now associate with the Swedes. Instead of tractor-like construction featuring a longitudinally-mounted, eight-valve engine sending power to a live rear axle, the P80 used new design techniques to make an efficient transverse-mounted, front-wheel-drive layout. Also, using a revolutionary (and quirky) independent rear suspension, the P80 sedans and wagons combined comfort, utility, and performance into a high-quality European car experience.  

 

The first models on the P80 platform were the 1993 850 sedan and wagon. Designed to replace the beloved 244 and 245, the 850s were a hit among buyers even with design philosophy changes. Further separating the P80 from the past was the “N” or “Whiteblock” engine. The five-cylinder engines featured dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, both uncommon in older Volvo engine designs. The White block was also adapted into four and six-cylinder engines, though none ended up in the P80. All N engines used in the P80 platform had five cylinders, though the aspiration depended on trim. 

The turbocharged N engine began its legendary run in Volvo performance models with 1995’s 850 T-5R. A limited-run model, the 850 T-5R was sold to help Volvo homologate their new sedan and wagon for touring car racing. Under the hood of the T-5R was the engine out of the 850 Turbo fitted with a revised engine management system that increased boost pressure for a peak output of 240 horsepower. On the outside, the T-5R sported unique bumpers with a more aggressive look, a rear spoiler, and a set of 17” titanium grey wheels inspired by those used on the touring car. A revised suspension package that lowered and stiffened the car wrapped up the enhancements. 

FCP Euro Sunday Motoring Meet Volvo P1, P2, P3 Volvo P80 C70

There weren’t any plans to expand on the T-5R, which was limited to 1000 units in America, but demand was so strong that Volvo debuted the 850R the next model year. Based on the T-5R, the new model was substantially similar to its predecessor, with most upgrades befitting the interior. Power from the turbocharged 2.3-liter engine remained the same, as did the four-speed automatic transmission. Both the T-5R and 850R were sold in Sedan and Wagon body styles in the states, and both competed in motorsports with the help of Tom Walkinshaw Racing. 

In 1999, the P80 chassis got a visual refresh, splitting the 850 into three models based on body style; the S70 (Sedan), V70 (Wagon), and C70 (Coupe). The classically boxy shape was softened further and set up the design language for the succeeding P2 platform. While the names changed, these models were essentially just updated 850s. New for the range post-facelift was the first generation XC70. The lifted station wagon was about to become a major player in the American market as the Subaru Legacy Outback, and Audi allroad were set to duke it out against Volvo’s newcomer. 

FCP Euro Sunday Motoring Meet Volvo P1, P2, P3 Volvo P80 850

Following the 850R’s success was the V70R. The new model featured a Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system similar to the XC70 and the same turbocharged five-cylinder engine and stiffened suspension as the 850s. Other interesting additions included diamond-stiched leather, Alcantara seats, and blue gauge faces. A larger 2.4-liter engine with a 15 horsepower bump accompanied the new five-speed automatic for the 2000 model year before the P80 V70 was discontinued.

Volvo P80 Models

Models

Code

Model Years

Bodystyle

850

854

1993 - 1997

Sedan

850

855

1994 - 1997 

Wagon

S70

874

1998 - 2000

Sedan

V70

875

1998 - 2000

Wagon

XC70

876

1998 - 2000

Cross-Country Wagon

C70

872

1998 - 2002

Coupe

C70

873

1998 - 2005

Convertible

 

P2 Platform

Continuing off the success of the P80, Volvo introduced the P2 as their platform for the new millennium. The first model to reach customers was the S80, replacing the S70 as Volvo’s flagship sedan. The S60 and revamped V70 followed in 2001 with good reception, carrying over many of the functional design characteristics of the P80 but in a slightly larger and more powerful package. Volvo designers softened the body lines, while the engineers revised the “N” series engines to increase efficiency through lighter weight components and reduced friction internals.

 

In 2003, Volvo brought the fight to the X5, Cayenne, and Touareg with their XC90. The big SUV offered an Anglo-Swedish take on a luxury tow vehicle that many buyers found appealing. It was so successful that the XC90 bled into the production of the P3 platform five years after the last P2 S60 was produced. Several engines were available throughout production, but the cream of the crop was the specially designed, Yamaha-engineered, 4.4-liter V8. It was relatively underpowered at 311 horsepower, which aided its reliability and longevity. It isn’t uncommon to see a V8 model with over 200,000 miles on the clock.

The performance models of the P2 platform were the S60R and V70R. Unlike the previous generation of R cars, the P2s benefitted from the Haldex AWD system introduced by the P80 platform. Powering the Rs was the second revision of the “N” engine, now dubbed the RN. The engine was specifically the B5234T4, a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline five-cylinder engine with just about 250 horsepower. They quickly became a prevalent tuning platform and one that remains today.

Volvo P2 Models

Model

Model Code

Model Years

Bodystyle

S80

184

1999 - 2006

Sedan

V70

285

2001 - 2007

Wagon

XC70

295

2001 - 2007

Cross-Country Wagon

S60

384

2001 - 2009

Sedan

XC90

275

2003 - 2014

SUV

  

P1 Platform

In the mid-2000s, Volvo introduced a product line of less expensive, sportier compacts to support the more luxurious P2 lineup. Using parent company Ford’s C170 compact platform (also shared with the successful Mazda 3 and Ford Focus), the S40 sedan and the V50 wagon first saw daylight in mid-2004. Shortly after that, the C70 coupe in 2007 and the sporty C30 rounded out the new North American model range in 2008. There isn’t too much to note about this platform other than the C30. Volvo’s small hatchback was lovely to look at and as practical as its Golf and Focus rivals.  

Volvo P1, P2, P3 Volvo C30 Rear

The P1 chassis used the third (and final) revision of the “N” engine, referred to as the RNC, which simplified failure-prone PCV components and relied more on polymers in the engine bay to reduce weight. Several different versions of the RNC made it into the P1 cars, though the best was the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five used in every C30. Available on the other models in T5 trim, it put out just about the exact power figures as the GTI of the day. However, in 2011, buyers were given the Polestar Performance option, which included retuned engine management to push performance by 23 horsepower and 37 lb-ft of torque. 

All four of these cars share a significant number of parts regarding suspension and engines with minimal changes throughout the life of the chassis family.

Volvo P1 Models

Model

Code

Model Years

Bodystyle

S40

544

2004 - 2011

Sedan

V50

545

2004 - 2011

Wagon

C30

533

2008 - 2013

Three-Door Hatchback

C70

542

2006 - 2013

Coupe

 

P3 Platform

Volvo’s P2 was a huge success, and the Swedes used that as a jumping point for developing its replacement, the P3. A new S80 was the first P3 to hit the dealerships in 2007, and it was quickly followed up by a new XC70 and V70 the following year. The last two additions to the P3 platform before the facelift were the S60 and XC60. While the S60 was an evolution of the previous sedan, the XC60 was all new. The crossover and small SUV market were exploding, especially in America, and the XC60 was Volvo’s response.

 

The XC60 is technically part of the P3 platform, but it shares little of its components with the various other models on the platform. Under the hood of the XC60 and just about every other model in the range was the all-new “SI6” six-cylinder engine. Developed especially for the P3 generation, the SI6 was a dual-overhead-camshaft, inline-six-cylinder designed to fit transversely in a Volvo engine bay. Thanks to some clever engineering, the turbocharged and normally aspirated visions are shorter than the RNC five-cylinder that they effectively replaced. Capable of more power, too, Volvo used them regularly until the introduction of the Drive-E engines after the facelift. 

A facelift occurred in 2014 and only improved the stellar design language present on the P3 platform. The new front end simplified the headlights on the S60/XC60 models and gave the lower front fascia a slightly accented look. The new models brought many changes and updates, including new engines, transmissions, and technological advancements, but Volvo chose to implement them in a rather unorthodox manner. 

The first updates to arrive were the Drive-E engines for the 2015 model year. Internally referred to as the VEA, we Americans received two variants of the gasoline-burning engine. The basic Drive-E engine was a turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. That engine and transmission combo were available in the S60, V60, and XC70 under the T5 trim alongside the RNC five-cylinder, also under the T5 trim. Volvo offered both engines under the same trim until the end of 2016 when the RNC was finally retired. At the same time, there was a T6 Drive-E engine available alongside the turbocharged SI6 under the same T6 trim. However, this VEA engine featured an Eaton supercharger paired with the turbocharger for a twin-charged setup. The SI6 was also discontinued post-2016.

FCP Euro Sunday Motoring Meet Volvo P1, P2, P3 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

 

In the middle of 2015, Volvo introduced an updated electronics package that included a handful of more advanced collision warning systems, WiFi connectivity, and a new rearview mirror— and I really do mean in the middle of production, as the early 2015 models retained the old electronics. Of course, the tech and new drivetrain components were available in a few brand new models.

Joining the S60 in 2015 as its wagon variant was the V60. Mechanically identical to the sedan, the V60 had been sold successfully in Europe for years before Volvo deemed it ready for the US market. From there, Volvo added what could be considered a few different trim options. First up were the S60/V60 T6 AWD Polestar models. Polestar, Volvo’s motorsports and tuning division at the time, took the S60 and V60 and turned them into bonafide sport sedans with over 350 horsepower, Ohlins suspension, massive Brembo brakes, and a host of other sporty and aggressive features. The 2015-2016 Polestars used the SI6 engine with some unique intake and exhaust components to improve performance before handing off power duties to the twin-charged Drive-E engines for 2017-2018. 

There were other new models, too. Volvo’s new owners, Geely, wanted a longer wheelbase option for their home market in China, so the S60 Inscription was sold with a three-inch longer wheelbase for extra rear-seat legroom. Also available were the briefly offered S60 XC and V60 XC. Not to be confused with the XC60, the S60/V60 XC received a suspension and wheel-arch treatment similar to the XC70 for an off-road-like look. The S60/V60 XCs were short-lived, with lower sales volume than other models, making them rare in the wild.

The S60 and V60 were the last P3 variants offered, ending their production in 2018. The other models had jumped ship about two years prior, either heading to the great beyond or moving onto the SPA platform.

Volvo P3 Models

Model

Model Code

Model Year

Bodystyle

S80

124

2007 - 2016

Sedan

V70

135

2008 - 2010

Wagon

XC70

136

2008 - 2016

Cross-Country Wagon

XC60

156

2010 - 2016

SUV

S60

134

2011 - 2018

Sedan

V60

155

2014 - 2018 (US)

Wagon

 

SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) Platform

During the middle of the P3 platform’s production, Ford sold Volvo to the Chinese manufacturer, Geely. The change in ownership was a boost for Volvo as Geely had much more time and money to develop the next generation of Volvo. The new platform had to share its components across various models like the P3, but a large focus was put on weight reduction and planning for future hybrid drivetrains. Volvo P1, P2, P3, SPA XC90

The first of the SPAs to appear was the second generation XC90. Skipping past the P3 platform gave engineers and designers the time to focus on the SPA platform while the old P2 SUV still had some legs left in the market. It debuted to much fanfare and laid out the design language that defines the SPAs. The S90s and V90 Cross Country joined the SPA lineup the following year and revitalized the S90 name that had gone unused since the late ‘90s. In the following years, the S60 and V60 made the jump to the new platform, rounding out the new models. 

The SPA also deviated from the typical Volvo script through its market targeting. Older generations presented a slightly more affordable and quirkier take on the European luxury segment, but the SPA platform left that strategy behind. The new models were to take the fight directly to the best of BMW, Mercedes and Audi, certainly shocking the competition with their unmistakable new design language. 

With the electrically-powered future quickly approaching, Volvo designed the SPA to house one engine, the Drive-E. Even as of now, Volvo has no plans of introducing another internal combustion engine to the fold. Instead, Volvo focused on how to best transition from a traditional ICE to an electric powertrain through their dedication to the hybrid. Every model, save for the Cross Country and V90 models, has a plug-in hybrid variant. 

FCP Euro Sunday Motoring Meet Volvo P1, P2, P3 Polestar 1 Rear

The Polestar 1 is part of the SPA platform as well, though it’s only sort of a Volvo. Formerly Volvo’s performance tuning arm, Polestar is now its own company though still related to Volvo. Their first model, the Polestar 1, is a sleek, plug-in hybrid coupe. Performance figures of 619 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque make it the most powerful “Volvo” ever.

Volvo SPA Models

Model

Chassis Code

Model Year

Bodystyle

XC90

256

2016 - Present

SUV

S90

234

2017 - Present

Sedan

S90L

238

2017 - Present

XL Sedan

V90

235

2018 - Present

Wagon

V90 Cross Country

236

2017 - Present

Lifted Wagon

XC60

246

2018 - Present

SUV

S60

224

2019 - Present

Sedan

V60

225

2019 - Present

Wagon

V60 Cross Country

227

2020 - Present

Lifted Wagon

Volvo’s various platforms have included some segment-defining models and a handful of quirky takes on what a luxury or performance car should be. Whether you want to find yourself in a C30 R-Design or a P2 XC70, understanding which models and years you have to choose from will make the buying and decision process that much easier. As always, if you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments below. Stay tuned to our YouTube channel for DIYs and our builds, and keep your eyes on our blog for more in-depth guides and how-tos.


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Written by :
Christian Schaefer

Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. Constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a turbo Subaru Forester and a ratty Porsche 914, neither of which are running.


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